Earlier this week, the Mozilla Foundation put out an announcement that distills to this:
To be more specific, Mozilla will no longer focus on developing innovations for Thunderbird but will keep it safe and stable … Mozilla will also provide all the infrastructure required for new, community-developed features to be integrated in upcoming Thunderbird releases.
In a nutshell, they are announcing the retirement of Thunderbird. Citing the reason of the project not being their “top priority,” which, in plain English means they lost the war to Gmail & Co on the mail side and they are going to focus like a laser so the same thing won’t happen on the browser. As of June 2012, Firefox holds 30% less market share than Google Chrome and is losing ground quickly.
Contrary to popular belief, open source software is just as expensive to develop as any commercial product, but the costs come in different ways. The same, professional high quality programmers, spend weeks and months contributing their code to a versioning repository where it’s reviewed, QA’d and then released. This is the same intense and expensive process as followed by Microsoft, Google, Apple and any other large development house. Sometimes these coders are working for a corporation with their full time being devoted to a single project, sometimes they are working out of their basement as unpaid volunteers. The Mozilla Foundation is no longer participating in this effort which means the open source world just lost an important ally. Thunderbird has been under the Mozilla umbrella since inception and it’s not likely that the OSS community will keep it going. Of course bug fixes and security patches will be available for some time but the writing on the wall is clear.
Which is pretty sad for users like us who are not using gmail or webmail interface and require a fast and flexible IMAP application to plow through a 10GB mailbox at local application speed, keyboard shortcuts and unrivaled ease of use.
However, time moves on and we need to look ahead. The IT landscape is littered with the remains of indispensable applications like ACT!, Eudora, Google Wave and others that had a sizable following at one time.
We’re currently considering other options like Mac Mail and Outlook Express to recommend to our customers, and we’d love to hear what you’re using.